Wednesday, August 17, 2011

BBC History 2011-09

A YEAR AFTER the UK celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, a key player in that desperate conflict of the skies is about to rise again. Later this month (September), archaeologists and salvage experts will join forces to raise from the seabed off Kent the only known surviving example of the Dornier-17 bomber. The aircraft has lain on the seabed five miles off Ramsgate since it was shot down by an RAF fighter, probably a Defiant, on 26 August 1940. It had been on its way from an airfield in occupied Belgium to bomb an RAF fighter base - Debden (in Essex) or Hornchurch (north-east London). Over recent weeks, the RAF Museum - the organisation behind the proposed raising of the plane - has been in discussions with salvage companies to determine exactly how the aircraft should be lifted. They are considering raising it either with a crane-and-cradle, a balloon-and-cradle, or by partially dismantling the aircraft on the seabed (ie by detaching its wings and lifting them separately). But the lifting operation is just one of the major challenges facing the museum's Dornier project team. Prior to plucking the plane from the seabed, archaeologists, acting on behalf of the museum, will have to remove the tonnes of seabed sand which have, over the past seven decades, almost completely filled the fuselage and cockpit of the aircraft.